Bridlington’s biggest employer is celebrating a golden history and looking to open up new worldwide markets.
Commercial vehicle safety products company Britax, based on the Bessingby Industrial Estate, will be marking 50 years of continuous production in the town with a day of celebrations for employees and their families on September 14.
The company can trace its history back even further, to 1946, when it literally began production on a kitchen table at a house in Yeadon, Leeds. Yorkshire metallurgist Philip Metcalfe Godfrey Thorpe was the founder, and PMG Thorpe, as it was known then, began producing wiring and electrical equipment for a growing automotive market in the immediate post-war years.
Names like Austin, Morris, Wolseley at Hillman were the best sellers and the industry was ordered to export the bulk of its production in order to obtain Government-controlled raw materials.
As the company expanded land was developed around Mr Thorpe’s home until, in 1963, there was literally nowhere else to build. The answer? An empty factory in Bridlington, on the Bessingby site the company still occupies today, was acquired as part of an initiative to attract permanent employment to seaside towns and areas heavily dependent on seasonal work.
Production capacity doubled almost overnight. Three years later, Britax, the car safety equipment manufacturers, took the company over and, now trading as Britax PMG Ltd., it went from strength to strength.
As manufacturers of amber hazard warning beacons and light bars for emergency vehicles and the makers of auxiliary and mandatory vehicle and lighting mirrors for all types of construction and off-highway vehicles, the company has an annual turnover of £30 million, almost half of which represents exports.
Major customers include JCB, Caterpillar, Massey Ferguson, New Holland, Case and Komatsu.
Marketing manager David Timms said: “The 2008 recession hit us hard but as quickly as we went into it, we came out of it. There has been a very strong recovery in the markets we operate in and I would say we are as strong now as we have ever been.
“The future looks very bright and we continue to push for new and developing markets overseas. We export strongly to the USA, Scandanavia and eastern Europe as well as the Far East and have offices in India and China,” he said.
Mr Timms revealed current initiatives centred on opening up new markets in Russia and the Middle East, particularly in the United Arab Emirates. “Russia is a massive market and the demand for agricultural machinery is huge, with so much land under cultivation. We have sales teams going out to these places and what we find is the British reputation for quality and reliability counts in our favour.
“The strength of the Bridlington operation is the skill and flexibility of our workforce and the quality control and rigorous testing that is carried out. Our reputation is paramount,” he said.
With the growth in demand for LCD lighting, new and improved products are coming on stream all the time and Mr Timms says the current workforce of around 220 is the highest for some time. Production processes are being modernised on an ongoing basis and there has been significant investment in the Bessingby site in recent years.
“We have a loyal and highly skilled staff, some of who have been with us 30 and 40 years. We remain, however, one of the town’s best-kept secrets and this anniversary has been the perfect opportunity to shout about ourselves,” Mr Timms said.
Managing director Mike Rayner said: “Our long association with the town has seen many challenges as world business patterns and customer expectations change, but we continue to grow and develop through new products and facilities as well as the skills and experience of our workforce.
“I am also very proud of the dedication that continues to be shown by our committed workforce and the integral role we play in the local economy.
“As with every business, I am sure the coming years will continue to present many challenges, however I am confident in the knowledge that the team at Britax PMG have the capability of successfully meeting these challenges and that we will remain an integral part of local Bridlington life.”
Although Britax PMG is now solely based at Bridlington, the original Yeadon connection is maintained because the company is now part of the Public Safety Equipment International (PSE) group, whose head offices are at the Moorfield Business Park in Yeadon, Leeds.
The group employes in excess of 750 people, with offices in the USA, Australia, Germany and France.
They distribute 25,000 products, including mobile speed enforcement systems, to more than 5,000 customers, including over 1,000 police forces.
East Yorkshire MP Greg Knight will officially open the Britax 50th anniversary celebrations at Bridlington Golf Club on September 14.
300 guests an VIPs are expected to attend, including the chairman of East Riding of Yorkshire Council, Councillor Chad Chadwick.
There will be entertainment for young and old, including a barbecue, bouncy castle, face painting and live music.
Production taking place at the Britax plant in Bridlington in the early 1970